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Discussion Post: Week 16

Well, that’s a wrap, everyone! It’s been a great semester working with all of you. I enjoyed watching the skills, experience, and confidence that you gained over the course of the semester, and the broad spectrum of ways in which you enhanced your ability to convey even the most complicated of concepts with clarity and precision.

With that said, let’s kick off this last post with the best news headline of the week: Unicorns exist!

…Yeah.

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Discussion Post: Week 15

We’re just about done! We’re through half of Presentation IV, and after that, only the web portfolio remains. What did you think about our first few teams on Thursday? How did the presentations go, and what about the added challenge of question-and-answer sessions? What did you discover as those proposals were being delivered?

Please do not forget to send the URL and the rationale for your web portfolio via Blackboard mail no later than this Thursday. We’ve been working on this all semester, but if it’s late, I won’t even be able to grade it. Don’t let that happen — submit it early, not late.

Alright, since we’re winding down, how about we shake things up a bit this week? Let’s start with some sports news for a change.

College football’s regular season came to an end yesterday, with the Alabama Crimson Tide edging out the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship, 32-28, to win a national title shot against the undefeated Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish boast the second-stingiest defense in college football, with approximately 10.33 points allowed per game. Only Alabama itself allows fewer points per game: 10.31.

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Discussion Post: Week 13

We’re almost done with Presentation III. How have you adjusted to the unique challenges of presenting about yourself? Were you up to the task, or were there elements about your presentation that you’d change if you had the chance? What lessons will you take away from your presentation moving forward, both to Presentation IV and to your job interviews in the future?

Please remember that your group’s Presentation IV topic is due by the start of class on Tuesday. As long as at least one member of your team sends in your topic, you’re fine — but if multiple group members submit your topic, that’s fine, too. I don’t have any problem with receiving your topic more than once, as I’d much rather get the same topic from your group five times than not receive it at all. If there’s any doubt about whether your group’s topic has been submitted, well, you gather what the safest approach is.

Also, don’t forget that Self-Evaluation III is due at the start of class on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Break. I’m already working on getting the videos ready for you, and all of them will be posted to Blackboard no later than this Thursday, so you’ll have just as much time as always to review your presentation.

With that said, let’s get straight into the big news item of the week. As you’re surely already aware, Israel has been fighting with Palestinian forces for many years, with consistent hostility between the two groups. Last week, for instance, southern Israel was being pummeled by rockets from Hamas, the terrorist organization which controls the Gaza Strip, in addition to a few stray shells from Syria. In a major turn of events, however, Israel’s most recent air strike, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, was a successful assassination of Hamas’ military commander, Ahmed Jabari.

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Discussion Post: Week 12

The presidential election reached its conclusion late Tuesday night, with incumbent Barack Obama earning a second term in the Oval Office over challenger Mitt Romney. The result thrilled Obama’s supporters, who waited well past midnight to hear their candidate proclaim victory under the night sky in Chicago, reviving the inspirational rhetoric that drove voters in 2008. And it was a night of anguish for the Romney camp, with the team searching for an explanation — after all, if Romney had merely received as many votes as John McCain did in 2008, he would have won the election — and with Republicans astonishingly losing ground in the Senate when they hoped to instead overtake the left-wing majority.

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Discussion Post: Week 11

NOTE: You can follow my election night coverage, updated minute-by-minute throughout the evening, on our sister blog, which I continued from a previous semester of COM 315.

It’s about time for Presentation III! How has your presentation been coming along? What have you learned from Presentation II that you’re planning to apply here? And how do you expect the challenge to be different than what we’ve faced in our first two presentations?

Well, America’s fateful day is almost upon us. On Tuesday, citizens across the nation will cast their ballots for the next president of the United States. Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been hard at work over the final weekend of campaigning, both sides hoping to swipe as many votes as they can in order to pull out what may be a narrow win in two days.

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Discussion Post: Week 10

Now that Presentation II is behind us and you’ve been able to watch your presentation video, what do you think of your performance? Did it go how you expected, or were there some surprises in your presentation? How will you adapt to the challenges of Presentation III, when you’ll have to pitch yourself to your audience? And what about Presentation IV, which will come immediately afterward?

It’s worth a quick reminder that your group should be well on its way to finishing Presentation IV by this point, as there won’t be much time left after Presentation III concludes to play catch-up. Don’t forget to submit your topic for Presentation IV before the November 20 deadline, and also remember to send your Presentation III topic over Blackboard before the start of this Tuesday’s class.

Going into the third and final presidential debate on Monday, most major polls had Barack Obama and Mitt Romney effectively tied, with the difference between them within the margin of error. With the momentum swinging toward Romney, though, some analysts argued that Obama needed to completely dominate the last debate in order to stem the tide. But despite Obama’s best efforts, such dominance was nowhere to be found as the two candidates fought to a draw over foreign policy.

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Discussion Post: Week 8

At last, Presentation II is underway! What did you learn from watching our first few presenters on Thursday? Did you pick up any strategies that could work well for your own presentations in the future? Or were there any traps that you hope to avoid in your own work?

After the first presidential debate, almost every media outlet declared Mitt Romney the clear winner. He surged in the polls after his victory, moving past Barack Obama in almost every major national survey taken after the skirmish despite having consistently trailed for almost a year. According to RealClearPolitics’ average of nationwide polls, Obama had not trailed since Oct. 11, 2011, but Romney pulled ahead on Tuesday, showing just how decisively the debate changed voters’ impressions of the race.

Thursday’s vice presidential debate, on the other hand, did not have such a clear winner despite the clear contrast in the running mates’ policies and debating styles. Joe Biden was much more active throughout the debate, taking control of almost the entire first half but doing so by repeatedly interrupting both his opponent and the moderator, while Paul Ryan played a more passive role, but kept a cool, composed demeanor throughout the clash. Biden had a number of strong one-liners prepared to combat the Republicans, from attacking Romney’s now-infamous “47%” line to calling Ryan’s claims “a bunch of malarkey.” Ryan didn’t have nearly as many strong retorts, much of which was due to Biden interjecting and getting the last word on the vast majority of debate topics.

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Discussion Post: Week 7

I hope you’re enjoying the long break, everyone! In the meantime, with Presentation II right around the corner, how do you feel going into our second round? What changes, if any, do you intend to make to your approach? How will you handle the challenges of giving your demonstration while keeping your attention on your audience, or distilling complicated technical content in a manner that everyone can understand?

Looking ahead, what web portfolio areas have you identified as key trouble spots that you’ll want to work out on our last lab day this semester? And how is your group progressing on its Presentation IV preparations? Remember that there won’t be a lot of time between our next few presentations, so you probably won’t be able to just, say, wait until after Presentation III ends before devising your last presentation. You’ll likely want to front-load your work when possible, instead.

As always, please remember to submit your Presentation II outline via SafeAssign at least 24 hours before your scheduled presentation, and bring a printed copy of your outline and rubric to class on your presentation day. I would also recommend that before your presentation, you test any visual aid that involves the computer — and don’t save the visual aid on your H:\ drive, since logging in and out of everyone’s accounts to access different H:\ drives will take more time than we have for most of our presentation days. Flash drives, CDs, E-mails, or cloud storage are all better ways to make sure that you have the files you need for your presentation.

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Side Discussion: The Purpose of Education

So, I noticed that a couple of weeks ago, we had an interesting discussion that stemmed from the Harvard University cheating scandal. Some people slammed the students for losing sight of the learning goals at hand, treating the grade as more important than the knowledge and expertise to be acquired. Others chided the university and the academic system as a whole for making education so expensive that it acts more as a marketplace than a site of learning.

I think we were onto a rather important topic — after all, even once you’ve finished your time in college, the education system will have a major influence over the colleagues with whom you interact. That means that the educational mission will remain a crucial issue throughout the rest of your respective careers. With that in mind, I’d like to re-open the subject for further discussion.

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Discussion Post: Week 5

It’s about time for us to start working on our web portfolios! How do you feel about the process going into it? Do you have any prior experience working on a website? Or do you already have a portfolio of your own? What are you considering for your approach to this project?

While we’ll be working on the web portfolios throughout the week, don’t forget to submit your Presentation II topics by the start of class on Thursday. Also, remember that we won’t be in our regular classroom this week; check the schedule on Blackboard for our lab locations on Tuesday and Thursday.

The violent protests from last week that killed several U.S. officials, including our ambassador to Libya, only spread and intensified this week, expanding to U.S. embassies and military bases in Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Pakistan, among other countries. Hundreds of angry men clashed with police, setting fire to cars, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and chanting “Death to America.”

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